Today I’m asking you to imagine bad things (hopefully that didn’t make you spit out your coffee). I know, there’s been plenty of bad “stuff” swirling around, metaphorically and actually. Right?
Stick with me. This is important to you and to everyone you’re leading, influencing or serving.
First, I’m not advocating free-floating or specific anxieties. I don’t want you to worry in the middle of the night. I’m not promoting fear or negativity.
Nope, none of that.
Maybe a safer way to approach this is with a Latin term (my high school Latin teacher, Ms. Williams, would be proud).
The Latin term is premeditatio malorum.
Premeditatio malorum is usually translated “the pre-meditation of evils.” Don’t get hung up on that word “evils.” We’re learning Latin and philosophy, it’ll be fun.
Premeditatio malorum is an exercise in Stoic philosophy that is the imagining of things that could go wrong or be taken away from us. Again, not wanting you to feel anxious but wanting you to consider what might go wrong. This is calmly considering what happens if this bad thing happened or that bad thing happens. (The Silicon Valley crowd might call it “worst-case scenario” planning).
You see the Stoics believed that if you consider what “bad things” might happen you would be less disappointed if they did come to pass. They wanted you to consider what might go wrong. That way you were not only less disappointed, but you were more prepared and more peaceful. As you think about what’s ahead, you allow for things to go wrong.
Here’s how it’s worked for me recently. When the COVID-19 thing began to come on my radar in early March, there were two primary thoughts in the public discourse:
No big deal: it’s like the flu. “Calm yourself down.”
Big Deal: it’s the apocalypse without the zombies. “We’ll get back to you on the zombies.”
Right? Those were the primary thoughts. Polar opposites. Most people I know gravitated one way or the other.
I leaned toward one pole, it doesn’t matter which. But I asked myself, what if I and the smart people I’m listening to are wrong? What if the other opinion is right? What could go wrong? What could I do to make things less bad if my understanding is wrong?
It was very helpful.
Here’s what I think you should do in this tricky time (“Tricky” is a huge understatement, right?).
Whatever you think is happening or is going to happen, ask yourself:
What if I’m wrong?
What if they’re wrong?
What if it goes the other way?
What could I do for my family or company if things play out another way?
You’ll find yourself considering options and preparing yourself mentally and emotionally. You’ll have the ability to plan and anticipate. If things do go in a bad direction you won’t have to improvise, you’ll have already thought through it.
You and I must consider options and prepare ourselves for them. That’s how you live a life that is antifragile. It’s how you can thrive.
You can still be an optimist and think this way. You can maintain a positive outlook and think this way. It’s not about whether the glass is half full or half empty, it’s about considering what you’ll do if someone knocks over the glass.
Oh, and Jesus had something to say about all of this. When He sent His disciples out into an uncertain time, He told them:
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16
Seems to me, the shrewd part is carefully considering what might go wrong while holding fast to the belief in all that is Good.
I hope you are well (that means something different now, doesn’t it?). Let me know what you think and what you’re up to. You can always email me: sthomas AT oneicity DOT com
I’d be grateful if you forwarded this along to someone who might benefit from an email like this.
Hang in there! We can do hard things! We’ll get through!
Grateful for you.
If you know someone who might enjoy this email, forward it to them and tell them to click this link to get an email of their very own (I’m grateful).